When supporting children and young people who are bereaved, it’s important to use clear and direct language as appropriate, and be as honest as you can be with that young person about the situation.

Children are likely to experience a whole range of emotions from anger, sadness, to acting normal and saying nothing at all and can jump quickly between these things – this is normal. Most children are very resilient and can surprise you by how much they already know or understand.

Loved ones who have been diagnosed with a life limiting condition, or who are dying or have died can evoke many different emotions for people, and children are no exception. Children and young people may have lots of questions around death and dying or may even stir up emotions which could relate to another bereavement they’ve faced.

How do you approach these conversations?

Be honest: It's important to be honest with children when talking about death and dying. They may have many questions and it's important to explain to them as simply as possible what has happened.

Use straightforward language: Children can find it confusing when we say someone has “gone to sleep” or passed away” so try to use straightforward language like ‘death’ or ‘dying’. Sometimes as adults we think certain words can sound too harsh for young children but using straightforward language avoids any confusion.

It’s ok to feel emotions: Children will experience a whole range of different emotions when faced with any death. By sharing how you feel with your children, you create a safe space to talk about emotions. Let them know that it’s also OK not to cry or even feel upset, if that’s how they feel. 

The national charity, Child Bereavement UK is a useful resource for tools and tips on how to explain death to children.

Please also have a look at these organisations who offer additional bereavement support for children and young people:

Winston's Wish

Child Bereavement UK

Grief Encounter

At a Loss

Make a Referral

If you would like to make a referral to our Children's Bereavement Service please complete this form.docx and send to our Family Support Social Worker Amy Cordiner via email: [email protected] or via phone 01324 826 222.


Further reading you may be interested in:

How to Support Someone Who is Bereaved

Managing Your Grief